Dhal and rice is one my favorite fall back meals, it’s incredibly economical and comforting. This dhal, with its warming spices and mixture of red and brown lentils and kidney beans, is particularly good in the cooler months. I grew up with a fairly conventional ‘meat-and-three-veg’ family and I always would make a face and complain when my mum said there was some kind of boring meat (chops, sausages) and vegetables for dinner. My mum loved to cook but, with six kids, the weeknight meals tended towards a monotonously regular rotation.
My son has a similar reaction when I tell him ‘it’s dhal and rice for dinner’ but he does eat it and occasionally comment if the dhal is particularly good (i.e. I’ve put enough salt in it). Kids tend to like a nicely salted dhal. There is something comforting about family meals that are slightly dull (yes, it really is dhal and rice for dinner again!). When my son was very young, dhal and rice was one of his favorite meals, but it was supplanted long ago by more conventional choices like pasta and, of course, pizza – both choices which I find very unsatisfying and incomplete as meals.
After a few years of a slightly restrictive fussiness, my son has finally started to eat a little more adventurously and I was so excited when he recently decided he loved tabouli (oh frabjous day!) – add some babaganoush, hummus and that becomes a complete meal to feast upon in the summer. It’s a joy to discover anything that pulls family meals away from endless pleas for more pasta and pizza to be included in our diet. I can’t stop catering for kid-friendly food quite yet but, until then, we can always enjoy dhal and rice for dinner.
Mixed winter dhal
Adapted quite a bit from Everyday by Karen Martini.
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 cm piece of ginger finely chopped
- 1 long green or red chilli, split lengthways
- 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon of ground tumeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 175 grams of red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 100 grams of brown lentils
- 1 x 400gram tin of kidney beans, drained
- 1 teaspoon of salt flakes (or to taste)
- 1½ tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 handful of coriander chopped (to garnish).
- Heat olive in medium size saucepan and saute onion, garlic and ginger, until onion is translucent (about six minutes). Stir in chilli and spices and cook for about another minute until spices are fragrant.
- Stir while you add 1.5 litres of water, red and brown lentils, kidney beans to pan. Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until lentils are very tender.
- Stir in tomato paste and salt, and cook for another five minutes until dhal is thick and soupy. Add more water if necessary.
- Serve with coriander, a dollop of yoghurt, a squeeze of lemon and rice or flat bread.